Research | Trends

Report: 6 Trends Pushing Tech Adoption in Education

The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) and the New Media Consortium (NMC) have released the latest findings of the MNC Horizon Project, an ongoing research initiative "designed to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have an impact on teaching, learning, and creative inquiry in education" according to information released by the organizations.

In addition to six key trends, this year's report also looks into a half-dozen significant challenges and emerging technologies to watch for in the next one to five years.

Short-Term Trends
According to the report, "rethinking the role of teachers" and a "shift to deeper learning approaches" are fast-moving trends that will accelerate K-12 Technology adoption in the next one to two years.

The role of teachers is changing, according to the report, to become more like the role of a mentor, moving between groups of students or individuals to provide guidance as learners take more of a leadership role in their education. Additionally, the Internet is supplanting teachers as the chief source of information in the classroom, pushing instructors to focus more on teaching the habits of life-long learners and fostering curiosity.

The report points to UNESCO Bangkok's ICT in Education as a useful repository of best practices and capacity-building projects.

The shift to deeper learning approaches refers to "a variety of approaches in which students gain knowledge and skills by investigating and responding to a complex question, problem or challenge," according to the report. "By working on self-directed projects where students think critically and communicate effectively, students are mastering core academic content aligned with 21st century skills while tackling real issues in their community and beyond."

Malaysia's National Education Blueprint, which focuses on developing creative critical thinkers, and The Options Program at Seward (TOPS), which has students volunteering in their Seattle community, are offered as examples of this rapidly emerging trend.

Mid-Range Trends
Mid-range trends likely to accelerate classroom technology used in the next three to five years identified by the report were "increasing focus on open educational resources" and "increasing use of hybrid learning designs."

The report points to the CK-12 Foundation, which provides a free online tool for educators to adapt open educational resources (OER) and create textbooks, as an example of the rise of shareable learning materials. Currently, more than 38,000 schools in the United States use CK-12 textbooks.

Rising textbook costs and a lack of learning resources in some areas is driving this trend forward, according to the report, but more work is needed, as only eight states currently have policies supporting OERs.

"Hybrid learning models," according to the report, "blend the best of classroom instruction with the best of Web-based delivery" and "place a strong emphasis on using school time for peer-to-peer collaboration and teacher-student interaction, while online environments are used for independent learning."

The increased use of these models is being driven by increased access to broadband, recent press attention regarding massive open online courses (MOOCs) in higher ed and growing recognition that online tools can improve most learning environments.

Twenty-four states are "experimenting" with hybrid learning, according to the report, though the models are "not part of national agendas yet."

Long-Range Trends
Defined as those more than five years away, long-range trends identified by the report were "rapid acceleration of intuitive technology" and "rethinking how schools work."

"What makes natural user interfaces especially appealing for teaching and learning is the burgeoning of high fidelity systems that understand gestures, facial expressions, and their nuances, as well as the convergence of gesture-sensing technology with voice recognition, which allows users to interact in an almost natural fashion, with gesture, expression, and voice communicating their intentions to devices," according to the report.

Such interfaces reduce the distance between users and content, allowing students to be more fully immersed in learning materials.

The Venture Academy in Minneapolis and Denmark's Hellerup School are cited as examples of schools that have been restructured.

At Venture Academy, for students in grades 9-12, the building is a converted printing plant and students have "learning coaches" who guide their learning instead of teachers. There are technology courses and independent projects, but no math or reading classes. "Real-time assessment technologies, digital content and [an] emphasis on self-reflection" help the learning coaches as they seek to guide students, according to the report.

The Hellerup School, for students in grades 4-9, also eschews traditional classrooms, requiring learners to meet in "home areas" for 15-20 minutes for a lesson, then allowing them to work in small groups or alone in other areas. Teachers work on lesson plans together so that any student can ask any instructor for help, allowing them to build relationships naturally with whoever they like.

Challenges and Technological Developments in Ed Tech
"Creating authentic learning opportunities" and "integrating personalized learning" are challenges described by the report as "solvable."

"'Complex thinking and communication' and the 'safety of student data' are considered difficult challenges, which are defined as well understood but with solutions that are elusive," according to a news release.

Problems so difficult that they can't even be defined well, described as "wicked," include "competition from new models of education" and "keeping formal education relevant."

Important developments in ed tech over the next five years, according to the report, include:

  • Bring-your-own-device initiatives;
  • Cloud computing;
  • Games and gamification;
  • Learning analytics;
  • The Internet of Things; and
  • Wearable technology.

For more information, or to access the full report, visit

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